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California Trailing Louisiana, Canada, U.K. in Live-Action Features, Report Finds

With live-action feature films fleeing California, the Golden State now trails Louisiana, Canada and the  U.K. in the number of live-action films, jobs and location spending, a new report shows.

“California now ranks a distant fourth place player in all three measures,” the FilmL.A. agency said. “This is clearly not the Hollywood ending that California film pioneers had in mind.”

FilmL.A., which works to improve location shooting details for producers, released the 40-page report Thursday — three weeks after legislation was introduced to expand California’s production incentives.

The report highlighted what it called California’s “significantly diminished” share of global feature film production, noting California’s share of the top 25 live-action films has slid from a “commanding” 64% in 1999 to just 8% last year.

It also pointed out that among successful big-budget films, California-produced animated films outnumber California-produced live-action films by more than 2-to-1.

“Of the 26 sampled live-action films with production budgets over $100 million, just two (‘The Hangover Part III’ and ‘ Star Trek: Into Darkness’) were made primarily in California,” the report said. “Without exception, California’s most successful competitors for new feature film projects offer significant, uncapped film incentive programs.”

California’s current incentive program, enacted in 2009, is significantly smaller than many others with a $100 million annual limit on total tax credits, which are awarded via a lottery in June. Despite feature film projects with budgets of more than $75 million not being eligible, demand for the credits far exceeds supply.

The FilmL.A. report cited California Film Commission statistics that from 2010 to 2013, there were 77 film projects that applied for but were not awarded the incentive and went on to complete production.

“Most of these projects fled the state; more than 66% (51 count) of these projects eventually filmed outside of California in places where incentives were available,” the study said. “The combined value of these 77 projects was $1.08 billion, with 85% of that spent on projects filmed outside California. The loss for the California economy exceeded $914 million.”

The new bill, the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act, would renew California’s tax incentives to run an additional five years through the 2021-22 fiscal year. The legislation  would lift the $75 million budget cap on productions eligible for the program but it has not yet specified how much would be allocated annually.

The report included a breakdown of $495 million in film incentive awards that were made available for 38 recent films, led by an $85 million award in Australia for “The Great Gatsby,” which had a $190 million budget.

Other notable awards included $39.8 million by Michigan for “Oz the Great and Powerful” for a $200 million budget; $30.4 million by Louisiana for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” for a $125 million budget; $26.8 million by Massachusetts for “R.I.P.D.” for a $130 million budget; and $25.8 million by New Zealand for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” for a $217 million budget.

California’s top incentive on the list was “Gangster Squad” with $9.9 million for a $75 million budget.

“The film and entertainment industries are absolutely essential to California’s middle class, and this underscores the importance of our work to level the playing field against the other states and countries who are luring our jobs away,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “These jobs not only support California families, they generate revenues that pay for schools, infrastructure, and other state services.”

The report also noted that only two 2014 live-action releases with budgets over $100 million — “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Interstellar” — were shot in California.

“Considering California’s vast filmmaking talent, the state should be exporting films for global audiences, not jobs to global competitors,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “State policymakers have the opportunity to make a difference this year by expanding California’s film and television tax credit. We hope they give the strongest possible signal to the film industry that they want to keep film jobs in California.”

The report also noted that a significant number of films set in California — such as “Battle: Los Angeles,” “Rise of Plant of the Apes,” “Iron Man 3” and “This Is the End” — have been shot mostly outside the Golden State in recent years, as Variety reported this week.

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